Make Yourself Irreplaceable, Create Art

In “Linchpin: Are You Indispensable”, Seth Godin argues why you should establish yourself as a linchpin: an essential component that your employer cannot do without. His definition of a linchpin is an artist; someone who can create something new, be self-directed and motivated, and provide insight and ideas. They create the system they operate in, and are not merely part of it. The alternative is to be a “cog”; someone who needs to be directed and acts like a part in a machine, a drone.

An example that resonated with me was his description of the grading criteria for a paper in high school. The highest marks go to those papers which are the most grammatically, structurally correct and not necessarily to those which are the most creative or innovative.  According to Mr. Godin, the latter are papers written by linchpins. The papers are not necessarily perfect, but they add value by providing new ideas.

One of the biggest reasons why Mr. Godin suggests becoming a linchpin is because how fast we are moving towards a mechanized industry, robots can perform most manual tasks and computers can be used to calculate massive amounts of information and are becoming more interactive. Workers in this futuristic environment must leverage these tools to add value in other ways, particularity by doing things only humans can do – adding emotional value.

Another point Mr. Godin makes is that you should look forward to your doing your job because you create a gift –something that needs no reciprocation. There are three ideas here. First, you should have a positive attitude or vibe when you go to work. To make his point, Mr. Godin dismisses the acronym “TGIF” (thank goodness it’s Friday) because it is counter-productive; you should look forward to Friday like any other day of the week. Second, you are producing something of value. This correlates with Cal Newport’s craftsman mindset where you build and use your career capital to maximize the value of your contribution[1]. Third, you feel self-efficacy by creating something of value; you are not driven by financial gain or prestige.

A counter argument is that it is impossible to be truly indispensable; there is always somebody who is smarter or more talented than you, of course, with the exception of the very few who are at the top. Mr. Godin would respond that being a linchpin is an attitude, not necessarily related your skill level or expertise. You commit to thinking about your experiences, and find ways to make the biggest impact with your talents. Thinking means you understand, evaluate, and respond to everything you do, rather than just taking orders from your supervisor and waiting for the end of the workday. Worrying about who might replace you is self-defeating and will paralyze you, so concentrate on delivering your gift.

I think Mr. Godin does not address the separation between your professional and personal life, and why you should balance them. Being a linchpin might infringe on the time you spend with your family, because if you are truly indispensable, you probably have to spend more hours at work; some professionals are not willing to make sacrifices when it impacts their family life. Other professionals would rather focus their attention on a hobby, such as traveling or sailing, so work is less of a priority in their life. Again, I think Mr. Godin would respond that being a linchpin is an attitude; everyone has to work, so why not have the attitude that you are creating a gift while you are working.


[1] So Good They Can’t Ignore You, book written by Cal Newport Copyright 2012.

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